Football

A Deep Dive Into the Football Stadium 'Poogate' Fiasco

This weekend, a young man was accused of shitting in the stands at Sunderland football club. It turns out that this accusation was untrue. Now, unsurprisingly, we have some questions.
05 December 2017, 2:13pm
Background photo: Flickr user vagueonthehow, via / CC By 2.0; Screen shot via YouTube

The first thing to establish here is that: no, a young man did not shit in his seat at Sunderland football club. Some context is now necessary: a kid by the name of Callum Mawson, 17, was widely accused of doing just that this weekend.

Some Sunderland fans were absolutely adamant that they had seen this event firsthand, with pictures circulating on Twitter of what the tabloid press have now widely dubbed "Poogate". The story ended up in the national press and was even tweeted about by Gary Lineker, a man who's suffered his own widely ridiculed public defecation.

The only problem is, as confirmed by the police and the man we shall henceforth dub "Big Cal", there is no actual evidence of a shit having taken place at the Stadium of Light. Though he was removed from the ground and spent eight hours in custody on account of his conspicuous drunkenness, the worst he could be accused of was making a bit of a scene by dropping trou and being visibly hammered. Having posed for his own surreal celebrity expose in The Mirror, Big Cal uttered the immortal words: "I am apologetic for it, I am sorry. I didn't defecate on the seat, that's the god's honest truth. A lad who sat next to me put on Twitter saying it didn't happen. He said: 'I can confirm he didn't have a shit in his seat… I can confirm he had a piss.'"

12 Beers, Six Ciders and Two Advent Calendar Chocolates

The fact that Big Cal did not, in fact, shit in his seat throws up more questions than it answers. The first is: has a 17-year-old just schooled the entire nation in drinking to horrific excess? Mid-to-late adolescence is a dangerous time for overdoing it, owing to a combustible sense of invincibility and relative inexperience, but the alcohol stats Big Cal has quoted to The Mirror are honestly miraculous. According to his tabloid confessional, he turned up to a 3 o'clock kick off having downed 12 bottles of Budweiser and six pints of Strongbow Dark Fruit, after only eating two chocolates from an advent calendar he got for Christmas.

This kind of drinking is not to be encouraged. It's the sort of sesh that keeps your dad off work for three days straight; the sort of sesh that could knock out a 6'3" squaddie for half a week. How a 17-year-old managed this is completely beyond me, but in Big Cal’s own words: "I had been out all night the night before at a party – that probably didn't help. I got home at 8AM and started drinking about 9AM."

No, indeed, that can’t have helped at all.

Mass Hysteria Ensues

Given that Big Cal did not poo at the Stadium of Light, why would so many people say otherwise? We could put this down to mindless trolling, but the truth is that accounts of the event were so vivid that it’s hard not to feel that some supporters imagined they had actually seen it.

So, from The Metro (and there should probably be a trigger warning on this):

"[One] fan wrote how the teenager 'dropped his pants to his ankles, squatted and curled one out before everyone around him parted [...] A bairn [child] in the row in front saw the shit and started gagging before spewing into our row.'"

Considering there was no shit, this is surely the greatest instance of mass hysteria since Olly Murs live-tweeted imaginary gunfire from inside Selfridges. With dozens of people claiming to have seen the incident and many reacting with extreme revulsion and anger, Big Cal was unfairly castigated and bombarded with scathing criticism online. So did the sight of someone slumped with their trousers down expose some invisible fault line in our collective consciousness, causing people to lose their minds over a faecal mirage?

Did a child actually puke at the sight, owing purely to the power of suggestion? Did people really flee away in horror and fear? Or, after a winless run at home stretching back 21 games, has the Stadium of Light fostered an atmosphere so bad that an inebriated teenager with no trousers on caused everyone to freak out over a phantom shit? The latter seems the most likely answer to what is fast becoming Britain’s most gripping mystery.


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The Hangover, Oh The Hangover

We have all woken up after a monstrous night out and got that creeping feeling of horror. That feeling that we have done something unspeakable, on the fringes of our memory and just out of reach. Usually, it’s nothing worse than falling down some stairs or vomiting on a light-up dance floor. Big Cal must have realised it was more serious when he came to in a holding cell surrounded by embarrassed stewards and police.

Can you imagine how bad the hangover must have been after 12 beers and six pints of blackberry cider? That sticky-mouthed, sickly feeling; smelling your own sour breath as you exhale and looking in the mirror at your wan skin and purple teeth. We’ve all been there one way or another, which should make Big Cal a near-universal figure of sympathy. The difference is that most of us haven’t had to confront extreme nausea the next day while also facing the tabloid press to deny doing a shit on a plastic seat.

Mea Culpa

Big Cal has, commendably, taken responsibility for the state he was in. Speaking to The Mirror, he said: "I think I must have been so drunk I thought I was on the toilet. That's the only thing I can think of. I wouldn't have done it for no reason. I don't know what was going through my head when I did it, I really don't."

His mea culpa went on: "I think the club will ban me. I'm going to be upset because I'm not going to be able to go to the home matches any more. But I can't feel hard done by – it's my fault, I have done it."

It is here that those who viciously reprimanded Callum should look at themselves for a moment. Barring a very public error of judgment, Big Cal seems like a fairly sound lad who is mortified by something he did when enormously pissed. Who among us, really, can claim not to have horribly embarrassed ourselves after drinking 12 pints? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

A Very British Tragedy, A Very British Hero

Who will speak for Callum Mawson? Who will raise their voice to defend this extremely shamefaced teen? Okay, yes, what he did was a bit irresponsible and exactly the sort of thing that gets you banned from a football ground, but let us at least plead some leniency. Having been suspended from work and now fearing the sack, the young man has already faced disproportionate punishment. Let the backlash end here and let us all leave Big Cal be.

Truly, it is not Big Cal who should apologise. It is we who should be apologising to him. By all normal standards of British behaviour, drinking 12 bottles of beer and six pints of Strongbow Dark Fruit would be a cause for congratulation.

Having been publicly shamed for a crime he didn’t commit, Big Cal is now a lightning rod for of the best and worst of Britishness. His story is everything which puts the "Great" in Great Britain: underage drinking, industrial amounts of fruit cider, rumourmongering and rampant untruth in the red tops; football banter gone wrong, public urination and an all-night bender that ends in a peaceable but undignified intervention by the police.

Big Cal may have had his name besmirched by dozens of fellow fans falsely accusing him of shitting in the stands at Sunderland, but to some of us he has become a very British hero in the process. It may not be how most kids imagine going down in football folklore, but maybe, just maybe – and this is obviously tenuous – maybe it’s the next best thing.

@W_F_Magee